UCF Flying Horse Big Band: The Bat Swings (Flying Horse)

Review of superhero-themed album by the college ensemble

Cover of the UCF Flying Horse Big Band album The Bat Swings!
Cover of the UCF Flying Horse Big Band album The Bat Swings!

Holy bebop, Batman! Jeff Rupert, director of the University of Central Florida Flying Horse Big Band, decided to turn the school’s premier student ensemble loose on classic 1960s TV-superhero music. This CD focuses on the energetic, quirky stuff that Nelson Riddle and others wrote for Batman, with a nod to Spider-Man for good measure.

Rupert, fellow saxophonists Harry Allen and Mark Taylor, trumpeter Michael Philip Mossman, and pianist/UCF faculty member Per Danielsson arranged the material for this narrowly focused big-band project. The band sounds inspired and tight throughout, augmented on a couple of tracks by faculty members Richard Drexler on Hammond B-3 and Marty Morell on varied percussion.

Baritone saxophonist Saul Dautch contributes excellent solos to the opener, “Batman to Airport” (chart by Mossman), and to Allen’s arrangement of “Batman Blues.” Mossman also arranged quirky snippets that segue between most tracks, as well as “Murcielago en la Cueva,” a clever Latin-tinged piece built from the action cues heard in the Batman series that blossoms into Neal Hefti’s “Batman Theme.” Tenor saxophonist Andy Garcia, alto saxophonist Dylan Young, and trombonist Christian Herrera are featured on “Kitka,” a Riddle tune exploring the Caped Crusader’s relationship with Catwoman. Guitarist Ryan Waszmer turns in memorable performances on several tunes, including the riff-charged “Spider-Man Theme” and “Holy Hole-in-the-Doughnut,” which Danielsson cleverly built from sidekick Robin’s exclamations.

The project closes with Rupert’s arrangement of “Amazing Grace.” The hymn is the traditional concert closer for multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan, who has been a UCF guest artist.